Episode 5

Published on:

21st Apr 2023

Managing Root Rots in Peas and Lentils with Michael Wunsch, Ph.D.

Dr. Michael Wunsch is a Plant Pathologist at the Carrington Research Extension Center at North Dakota State University. He holds a Ph.D. from Cornell University in 2010, and has worked for NDSU ever since and focused on disease management problems on a wide breadth of crops grown in North Dakota. Michael’s focus is on applied research that can directly address farmer needs. In this episode we focus specifically on root rots in peas and lentils and how the soil temperature can affect successful yields.

“Basically what happens is, is if your soil temperatures are below 50 degrees Fahrenheit in that seven day period after planting the root rot severity is way lower, way lower. You're cutting your fusarium and aphanomyces root rot in half at those early mid vegetative growth. So they can get a lot bigger before the root rot gets bad.” - Dr. Michael Wunsch

Michael emphasizes that there are no silver bullets with these root rots and that both warm and cool season root rots cause problems for producers and need to be accounted for. Seed treatments with proper efficacy for pythium and rhizoctonia will start crops off on the right foot. Fusarium and aphanomyces become a bigger issue in warmer saturated soils later in the summer. These two pathogens tend to impregnate fields one year and won’t cause a problem until the next year's plantings. Unfortunately seed treatments will no longer be present when temperatures warm up. Planting early in cooler soils will allow for the plants to be larger and more hardy prior to when their warm fungal adversaries will start causing a problem. The third management strategy that is an important piece for managing these root rots is crop rotation. 

“It's just a no-brainer. You use a seed treatment with peas when you're planting in soils below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and if you want to minimize your root rot, you need to plant in soils that are cool…The seed treatment basically gives you another four to five bushels. And so you're looking at a four to eight bushel gain by optimizing your planting day relative to soil temperature….Suddenly you're at eight to 13 bushels with those two tools.” - Dr. Michael Wunsch

This Week on Growing Pulse Crops:

  • Meet Dr. Michael Wunsch is a Plant Pathologist at the Carrington Research Extension Center at North Dakota State University.
  • Explore different strategies that when integrated together can help producers manage common causes for devastating root rot
  • Discover the ongoing research into root rot and the further techniques being assessed

Growing Pulse Crops Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.

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About the Podcast

Growing Pulse Crops
The science and business of farming field peas, chickpeas, and lentils
This show features the latest in research, agronomy, and economics of pulse crops (peas, chickpeas, lentils, etc.).

Demand for these nutrient-dense, high-protein foods continues to grow. There is also interest from farmers to include more pulses into diverse rotations for benefits like nitrogen fixation and soil health.

But the industry continues to face challenges, and we are eager to address these head on. So if you’re a pulse grower or in any way interested in these important crops, hit subscribe and stay tuned for future episodes. We’ll be back with plenty of information about challenges pulse farmers are facing throughout the U.S. and what solutions are working.

Brought to you by the Pulse Crops Working Group with support from the North Central IPM Center and USDA NIFA.

About your host

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Tim Hammerich

I share stories about agriculture, agtech, and agribusiness on podcasts and radio.